Trump refuses to rule out firing key impeachment figures

President says Mulvaney is staying, but signals NSC Ukraine expert is likely on his way out

John T. Bennett
Washington
Friday 07 February 2020 16:22
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Trump calls Russia probe 'bullshit'

Donald Trump, fresh off his acquittal by Senate Republicans, could be poised to shake up his West Wing staff as he gears up for re-election.

Multiple media outlets reported Friday morning that with impeachment behind him, the president is ready to cast aside several aides – including Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney – but the White House is pushing back.

Also in the line of sight is Alexander Vindman, an active-duty Army officer who currently is the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council. Mr Vindman raised concerns about Mr Trump's 25 July call with Ukraine's president that was the basis of House Democrats' impeachment inquiry.

Mr Trump and Mr Mulvaney have never gelled after the former conservative GOP congressman took over for John Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general who clashed too often with the president.

Mr Trump, while departing the White House for an event in Charlotte, told reporters those reports are "false," adding he has a strong relationship with Mr Mulvaney. He also signalled he is leaving it to National Security Council leaders to decide whether Alexander Vindman, who offered damning testimony about the 25 July Ukraine call, will remain in his NSC post. "They'll make that decision," Mr Trump said. "You'll be hearing."

GOP sources for months have pointed to Congressman Mark Meadows as a potential Mulvaney replacement. He has become a close ally of Mr Trump, and one of his leading defenders on Capitol Hill and -- importantly for the president, on cable television.

During Mr Trump's post-acquittal "celebration" event on Thursday in the East Room of the White House, the president lavished praise on the North Carolina lawmaker, who is not seeking another term.

Mr Trump mused Mr Meadows, if he did run again, would "only win by 40 points."

"He is a tremendously talented man not just as a politician, [but] as a human being He is incredible, and during these horrible times, I mean the way he worked and [Congressman] Jim [Jordan] and all of you guys, the way they worked was so, it was like their life was at stake. So many," the president said of Mr Meadows and other House Republicans who defended him during the impeachment saga.

Though he was seated in the front row at the same event, the president did not mention his acting chief of staff, who was heavily involved in the Ukraine affair, according to the testimony of multiple current and former administration officials.

Early reports about a staff shake-up quickly went from changes were coming to changes are possible -- at some point.

The White House tried to knock down any suggestions that Mr Trump is about to overhaul his West Wing again. Former West Wing officials say senior staff changes only add to his chaotic governing style.

"There are no personnel announcements at this time," White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham told The Independent, before describing the reports as erroneous.

"I find it disappointing but not surprising that at the end of a successful week for this country and the president," she said, "the media has decided to focus on palace intrigue and rumors."

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